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IMD Impact Stories · Leadership

Making the right call for a leadership development program

A conversation with Tatiana Matveeva, Corporate HR Training Manager at JTI
August 2012

Many of us believe that we should attend a leadership development program (or that our bosses should go). We all want to have more influence and impact. We want to work better with the individuals we deal with every day, as well as the teams for which we are responsible. As good a leader as one may be today, there is often a desire to try out new leadership situations, to be coached, get feedback, be inspired and to have an opportunity to bring this competence to the next level. And in the best leadership development programs this is not about a one-size-fits-all model – it is about better understanding yourself and finding the leadership style that suits you.

IMD has long offered two programs in this domain, High Performance Leadership (HPL) and Mobilizing People (MP). Both have outstanding track records, and both have their fans who talk about “a life-changing experience.” To better understand how to choose between these programs, or how to use them from a corporate perspective, IMD went to an expert, Tatiana Matveeva, Corporate HR Training Manager at Japan Tobacco International in Geneva.

Over the years JTI has sent 102 managers to MP and 149 to HPL. Why? 

Tatiana: “We are in an extremely competitive and highly regulated global industry, and it goes without saying that we need to have the best leaders in our business to stay ahead. Our top people are faced every day with tough marketplace decisions, as well as good questions and challenges from their highly qualified and aggressive teams, and they need to be equipped to handle this well. We hire great people, but we also have to provide them with great development opportunities.”

From IMD’s perspective JTI does a very good job in managing its relationship with IMD and its use of our programs, both Mobilizing People and High Performance Leadership, as well as the custom brand program that we do together. 

Tatiana: “It took us a few years to figure this out. It did not happen overnight. Our selection process for MP and HPL has evolved over the past 5 years. We went from a simple country allocation – everyone gets 2 slots – to choices based on the needs, experience, and desire of the candidate, as well as the company’s desire to develop that person, together with JTI’s strategic priorities. It is difficult to not want to attend these two programs, but today a candidate needs the blessing of his or her line boss, as well as the regional HR lead. In some cases the selection will be made by the Executive Committee.”

“One thing that helped us was that several of our HR people attended these two programs. Not only did this improve their leadership abilities, but it gave them deep insights into the right people for each offering, and the value it could bring back to JTI.”

“MP and HPL are only for mature participants who need and deserve it. You do not get to attend just because of your title. Even if you have the budget, that is not enough. You have to be right for the course. You have to already have some battle scars in order to get the most from these programs. Going too early, especially to HPL, is a mistake. With what we know now we feel entitled to push back and guide candidates towards the right program.”

From the perspective of Professor Ginka Toegel, the Mobilizing People Program Director, and Professor George Kohlrieser, who leads High Performance Leadership, JTI’s selection of candidates has improved over the years. How do you decide who will attend each program? 

“Mobilizing People is for mature JTI Directors and those managing large teams, especially when much of the interaction is face-to-face. These must be senior people with a good track record in several challenging leadership roles. Typically they are also high-potentials whom we believe will grow with JTI. It is not for everybody. Many aspire to MP, but they don’t always realize the intensity of the experience and the hard work required.”

“High Performance Leadership is THE Course, the capstone to your leadership journey. You can’t wish for more! But you have to have had a journey, and gathered many years of experience, and those battle scars, before attending HPL makes sense for you and JTI.”

“The peer coaching in both programs means that we have to have our best people there, to add value to the programs, to represent JTI well, but also so that they are well-received by their respective program team mates.”

“Whichever program we choose for a candidate we know that they need this time out of the office for reflection, reflection which rarely happens on the job. All of our managers believe they are indispensable. Even for our best General Managers, this time away for reflection and learning is invaluable for them and for JTI.”

What the Program Directors are saying:

George Kohlrieser: “The enthusiasm of JTI for developing leadership talent is impressive and contagious. They are very active in networking with other top executives from around the world to learn all they can about leading with a global mindset. While we always have only one JTI person in each HPL coaching group, they deeply appreciate the opportunity to interact with other JTI leaders as well. Many describe the experience in HPL as supercharging their leadership.”

Ginka Toegel: “JTI’s choice of MP participants is impressive — highly motivated and mature participants with diverse experience and background. JTI has a deep understanding of who will benefit from the program most and creates the best pre-program context. Participants knew the philosophy of the program, had concrete and realistic expectations and a very positive attitude. This is everything you wish for as a Program Director.”